Allergan heads roster of drugmakers raising US list prices of medicines at start of 2019

Allergan confirmed that it raised the list price of 51 medicines in the US as of January 1, including increasing the cost of 27 drugs by about 9.5 percent and a further 24 by around 4.9 percent. The company said that it is "committed to responsible pricing principles" outlined in a pledge in 2016 by CEO Brent Saunders, under which price increases will be limited to one per year on its products and be less than 10 percent.

According to an analysis by Rx Savings Solutions, Allergan's price increases for 2019 affected more than half of its portfolio, including an extended-release version of Namenda and Restasis. Meanwhile, more than 30 other drugmakers including Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis hiked the prices of medicines in the US at the start of the year, with average increases of 6.3 percent.

GlaxoSmithKline confirmed that it raised the prices on 36 of its drugs, although the increases were not more than 3 percent, while Novartis is set to lift the price of more than 30 different drugs this month, with increases ranging from 4.5 percent to 9.9 percent. Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff noted that the company plans to raise list prices on 14 percent of the medicines it sells in the US, including Cosentyx, Gilenya and Taisgna, for an average increase of 4.7 percent. "Our rebates and discounts, however, continue to grow even faster," Althoff remarked, adding that as a result, Novartis expects a net price decrease of nearly 5 percent across its US portfolio.

The analysis by Rx Savings Solutions showed that as well as branded products, the prices of some generic drugs also rose, with Hikma Pharmaceuticals lifting the price of morphine by more than 10 percent, ketamine by 20 percent and enalaprilat by 30 percent. Hikma spokesman Steve Weiss noted that all three increases came to less than $1 per vial, adding "these are small increases that enable us to continue operating a sustainable business." Weiss also indicated that the company lowered the prices of some drugs.

Commenting on the increases, Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat said they appear to be modest, similar to the past couple of years, as the industry adjusts to pressures on drug pricing. Meanwhile, Michael Rea, CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, remarked "the reason it can keep happening is there is no market check, no person or entity to bring reason to determining drug prices," adding "we expect the number of 2019 increases to be even greater than in past years."

In November last year, Pfizer revealed that it would hike the list price of 41 medicines, or 10 percent of its entire drug portfolio, as of January 15, 2019, with the majority of increases of 5 percent. The move came after Pfizer previously deferred planned increases in response to criticism from US President Donald Trump.

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